Second in size only to the blue whale, the fin whale is the largest whale known to breach.
Famed for its ability to sustain speeds of almost 40 km/hour, the species is sometimes referred to as the “greyhound of the sea”. It was for this reason that the fin whale was not initially targeted by early whalers. However, the species suffered the most drastic declines of any of the rorquals following the onset of modern commercial whaling. Almost 750,000 fin whales were reportedly taken from the Southern Hemisphere alone between 1904 and 1979. Although commercial whaling has now been banned, scientists fear that it may be too late for the species to recover from such a massive population decline. Baleen whales (Mysticeti) split from toothed whales (Odontoceti) 34 million years ago, spanning four families with only 15 species. The fin whale shares its genus, Balaenoptera with 7 species, although the only other genus in the rorqual family belongs only to the humpback whale.
- Order: Cetartiodactyla
- Family: Balaenopteridae
- Population: 100,000 – 119,000
- Trend: unknown
- Size: 19-20m
- Weight: 70,000kg
The fin whale has a global distribution, occurring in the north Pacific, north Atlantic, Indian and Arctic Oceans and in the Mediterranean. They are relatively rare in tropical or polar seas. There are two main populations, one in the southern hemisphere and one in the northern hemisphere.
Habitat and Ecology
Fin whales occur both in open ocean and in shallow coastal waters. They are highly migratory, moving to high-latitude feeding grounds during spring and summer, returning to southerly temperate waters for mating and calving during autumn and winter. They feed by filtering planktonic crustaceans (krill), fish and squid through their baleen plates.